Stigma around coronavirus may lead some to hide illness, warns institute
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that by Monday it had tested 160 people for coronavirus, or Covid-19.
Of those, 109 people had met the case definition for persons under investigation but to date all results had been negative.
“The NICD is the only laboratory performing testing for SARS-CoV-2 and can confirm South Africa has not had a laboratory-confirmed case of Covid-19," said NICD spokesperson Sinenhlahla Jimoh.
“Despite this, we have noted with concern the disturbing stigmatisation against people from affected areas, which now includes countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East,” Jimoh said.
She said stigma around the illness had the potential to make people hide their illness to avoid discrimination. This would further prevent people from seeking treatment.
“This can lead to difficulties in identifying and controlling the spread of Covid-19 should it reach our shores,” Jimoh said.
She said given that it was a new disease, it was understandable that its emergence and possible importation into South Africa could cause confusion, anxiety and fear among the public.
"Viruses do not target people from specific populations, ethnicities or racial backgrounds, and we urge the public to desist from participating in stereotyping and discriminating against an identifiable group of people, a place or a nation,” she said.
Anyone who develops symptoms of respiratory illness including a cough, fever and shortness of breath either or during or after recent travel to countries where Covid-19 is known to be circulating, is urged to seek medical care early.
The general public hotline number is 0800 029 999 and operates weekdays (Monday to Friday) from 8am to 4pm.